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Week of Aug. 4 to Aug. 10 


• “Never did I think that I would be a in a crisis situation where the life-or-death task I would be given would be to make small talk with a drunk college kid.” —Kevin Carlin, The Moth

• “What if I said I was too tired?” —Vanessa Bayer’s response to Saturday Night Live producers when she was offered a job as a cast member, The Best Show On WFMU

• “We’d have great guests. Tom Cruise, Beyoncé—and then someone who threw up in a hot tub on the Real World. And they’d turn up the fog machine for them just as much.” —Damien Fahey on Total Request Live, Never Not Funny

• “David, I cannot believe how long it’s taking you to figure out this is a bit.”
“Maybe because it’s not funny in any way, shape, or form.” —Scott Aukerman and David Cross, Comedy Bang Bang

• “All this stuff that’s going on in the world today? You gotta be kidding me!” —Jerry O’Hearn (Andy Daly), The Sound Of Young America 

• “But you don’t know how to fly a helicopter.”
“It’s like a car, right?”—Tom Scharpling and Rabid B. Hatchetman (Jon Wurster) on the ease of helicopter piloting

• “Before we go guys, do we want to do one of our famous Human Giant songs?” [Applause.] “There are no Human Giant songs!”—Paul Scheer, Doug Loves Movies

• “If you want to get to the top of that mountain, you can sit here on the bottom and you can wait for a fuckin’ ski lift that ain’t ever coming. You can wait for some superstar to pick you up in a helicopter and fly you up to the top. You can wait for somebody to come lift you and carry you on their back—which ain’t ever gonna happen. Or you can slowly but surely start walkin’ that motherfucker. It may be slow. It may hurt your feet. It may take forever. It may be not fun. It may suck. But eventually you will start to get up that motherfucker.” — Violent J, The Adam Carolla Show

• “I have no sympathy for people who get eaten by sharks, unless your boat sank… There was no reason to go out there.” —Bill Burr, The Adam Carolla Show 


Rock Solid
In the Internet age, people yammering about music are always a click away. When they say “music,” they usually mean “pop music”—which is really just code for “guitar-based pop music recorded after Ike Turner invented rock ’n’ roll.” On the surface, Rock Solid hosts Pat Francis and Gary Lucy aren’t any different from the scores of anonymous online bozos with serious opinions about Weezer’s career trajectory—but most of the people kvetching about the band’s post-Pinkerton output don’t have the benefit of speaking through a megaphone provided by a popular podcast like Never Not Funny, which “presents” Rock Solid. Additionally, most pop discussions don’t color in the shades of Francis and Lucy’s Rock Solid chatter, as the hosts clearly take joy in ribbing each other’s personal tastes—Francis skews more classic rock than Lucy, who’s a proud citizen of Alternative Nation—while silently acknowledging that music appreciation is a thing of tremendous subjectivity. (Although everyone can enjoy a well-timed shot at Peter Frampton’s apparent shortcomings in the underwear department.)

The jokes fly fast and friendly in this week’s episode, which is devoted to the hosts’ favorite “sophomore surges,” i.e. second albums that exceeded the expectations set by their predecessors. Their picks fall in line with expectations (Lucy reps for both Pinkerton and Elvis Costello’s This Year’s Model) while allowing for curveballs, like Francis’ well-reasoned and entirely sincere endorsement of Taylor Swift’s Fearless. The episode exposes some tiny holes in the show’s format (Costello’s “No Action” is accidentally played twice in the place of other songs) and, as iTunes commenters point out, the song clips could be higher in the mix. But the informal aspects of the ’cast are a major part of Rock Solid’s charm, and you definitely won’t hear a round of Lucy’s ingenious Pyramid take-off, The $25,000 Album Cover, emanating from the Sound Opinions studios any time soon.


Best Show Gems: R.B. Calls About the Gathering of the Juggalos
Rarely do listeners witness the birth of a Scharpling and Wurster sketch idea, but in July 2009, Scharpling and Paul F. Tompkins railed for an hour against the bafflingly boneheaded, soon-to-be viral infomercial for the 10th annual Gathering Of The Juggalos. The following week, right on cue, there was a call from Rabid B. Hatchetman, a Faygo-swilling 36-year-old creep in clown makeup who gets arrested for stealing garbage and chastises Scharpling for disrespecting Shaggy 2 Dope. The Gathering wears its dunce cap so proudly that it almost defies parody, but Scharpling and Wurster succeed here by dragging the goofy, insular world of Insane Clown Posse into the goofy, insular world of Newbridge. The result is an episode that’s perfect for curious newbies and dyed-in-the-wool Friends of Tom alike. 

The Best Show On WFMU
In an extended interview with Saturday Night Live rising star Vanessa Bayer, Tom Scharpling has a laid-back conversation with an actress many comedy fans still don’t know, much of it dedicated to the tragically misguided belief held by Bayer’s father that he is the first person in history to be named Todd. He also strongly discouraged his daughter from doing her Miley Cyrus impression in her SNL audition because he didn’t find it funny, only to have it become her signature piece. But the true moment for the books is when giggling callers goad Scharpling into a furious, seemingly spontaneous drop of his iron fist. Tired of the show’s three hours being padded with in-jokes and yes men? Apparently so is Scharpling. All regular callers have been banned. Spike, unfortunately, is not, but he must justify his existence every 20 seconds. Callers may not dial in two weeks in a row unless they have a bombshell of a topic. It’s hard to guess whose hearts are more broken—former Scharpling protégé candidates or former first Todd, Todd Bayer.

Comedy Bang Bang #117: Can’t Never Did Nothing: David Cross, Ruben Fleischer
There’s inevitably a point during the Hollywood Facts game when guests realize Scott Aukerman’s “facts” are jokes, even though he fools them at first with a real one. Most people pick up on it pretty quickly, but not guest David Cross, who can’t believe Aukerman is insisting that the character Ariel from The Little Mermaid both starred in Mermaids and wrote the “shoop shoop song.” It gets to the point that listeners may wonder if Cross is doing is own counter-bit by playing dumb, but he’s not. He just doesn’t get that it’s a joke, as he says later, because it’s not funny. Well, his bafflement is entertaining at least. Joining Cross is 30 Minutes Or Less director (and Mr. Show superfan) Ruben Fleischer, who seems a little star-struck hanging out with Cross and hearing Mr. Show anecdotes from him and Aukerman. (The story of Bob and David meeting is told yet again.) The guys get some mileage out of fellow guest Sam Darling (Chad Carter), whose disability—a serious injury suffered before an Ultimate Frisbee game—led him to a career as a motivational speaker and Ultimate advocate. Cross is always a good guest, and he talks a bit about the upcoming (final) season of Todd Margaret and offers a grudging non-preview of the third punny Alvin And The Chipmunks movie.

Doug Loves Movies: Aziz Ansari, Ruben Fleischer, Rob Huebel, Paul Scheer
Sketch troupe Human Giant never broke up, and its MTV series wasn’t technically canceled, either—it was just stuck in a holding pattern as troupe members Aziz Ansari, Rob Huebel, and Paul Scheer explored other opportunities in the vast wilds of the Los Angeles comedy scene. Opportunities like Ansari’s starring role in new Ruben Fleischer film 30 Minutes Or Less, which was Doug Benson’s original reason for booking him and Fleischer for Doug Loves Movies—until scheduling conflicts prevented any of Ansari’s 30 Minutes Or Less co-stars from joining them. Enter Huebel and Scheer, who help Benson make podcasting lemons into Human Giant reunion-ade—though all involved are quick to mention that they still see one another all the time. Even if they didn’t say so, it’d be obvious from how quickly they pick up their playful, rapid-fire banter, prodding Ansari into spilling fake details on the next season of Parks And Recreation—the Internet ought to be hard at working willing a Parks And Rec/Muppet Babies hybrid into existence—and harassing a couple that apparently chose to bring its baby to the podcast taping. (Plus masturbation jokes—tons of masturbation jokes.) When Benson accidentally hits the kid with a Woot Monkey, it’s like a Human Giant sketch come to life—and proof that they should really write some new material while the troupe members are still on such good terms. 

Hang Up And Listen: The Mike And The Mad Josh Edition
The irony of the name Hang Up And Listen is that it refers to a convention of live sports-talk radio call-in shows (i.e. “I’ll hang up and listen to your response”), but it’s a podcast, which is always prerecorded. So it’s fitting that the HUAL crew—minus Stefan Fatsis, who occasionally pops in with reports from the National Scrabble Championship—experiment with their first “call-in show” ever. Mike Pesca and Josh Levin—a.k.a. “Mike And The Mad Josh,” a.k.a. “Mike And The Even-Keeled Josh”—asked listeners the week before the show to phone in whatever sports questions they’d like and the hosts would try to answer them. The spotty quality of the questions leaves the impression that Pesca and Levin were making do with a thin pool, but a few take them to odd places they’d likely never go on their own. A particularly good one: What if Steffi Graf and Andre Agassi had their baby switched with another couple at the hospital? Which baby would grow up to be the better tennis player: The one with Graf/Agassi genes or the one raised by champions? Pesca and the even-keeled Levin have the answer. 

The Mental Illness Happy Hour #20: Gina Grad
In his “fear-off,” a weekly recitation of anxieties, fears, and terrors, Paul Gilmartin says he worries that his show will become repetitive—which he confesses during a recurring feature. Judging by his lively and engaging conversation with radio personality and The Pretty Good Podcast host Gina Grad, he has nothing to worry about. Like some of the podcast’s other guests, Grad at first seems too ebullient, cheerful, and godforsakenly happy to be on a podcast about mental illness, but she proves an insightful, funny, and enormously appealing guest. The conversation is never stronger than when Grad and Gilmartin discuss the psychological and spiritual ramifications of having sex with someone you don’t like or respect, and the negative consequences of being overly nice and accommodating in the wrong situation. Grad even has great practical advice: She says telling someone she’s with that she suspects she might have a panic attack in the near future immediately takes the panic away. The Mental Illness Happy Hour isn’t just entertaining—it’s educational too. 

Mike And Tom Eat Snacks #29: Hershey’s Take 5 
It’s shaping up to be a pretty workaday snack review until the last few minutes of this week’s episode. Michael Ian Black fixes that with a choked-up monologue about how he didn’t even want to give the Take 5 candy bar a chance at first, but at the end of the day, had to admit that he was wrong. “Take 5 showed me that looks can be deceiving,” says a suddenly weepy Black. But there are still some playfully distracted moments before that, such as when Black and Cavanagh speculate on the New England hometown of the listener who sent them the Take 5: It’s a place where you have to be tough, Black guesses, because men go to sea and don’t always come back.

The Moth: Kevin Carlin And Giulia Rozzi: StorySLAM Favorites
Kevin Carlin’s story about witnessing an intoxicated college student fall and badly gash his head, then being tasked with keeping the kid conscious, fits well with the conversational tone of The Moth. But he finds a comic element that most people would have overlooked in an emergency. In the next segment, Giulia Rozzi tells a story about her singing career, including getting trashed and singing Madonna’s “Like A Prayer” with a cover band in a bar. It doesn’t tie up quite as neatly as Carlin’s story, but is nearly as funny.

Sklarbro Country #54: Josh Malina, Nick Kroll, Jason Nash
After kibitzing with Paul Scheer from The League last week, the brothers Sklar talk to an alumnus from another prominent sports comedy (or comedy-drama), Josh Malina. He discusses nearly getting the Josh Charles role in Sports Night, Aaron Sorkin’s war with the network over the show’s infamous laugh track, and winning over the short-pants set with his crowd-pleasing turn on iCarly. But it’s the brothers who score the best bit of the week when they imagine a Mullet Hall Of Fame located behind a Super Cuts, so that it will literally be business up front and a party in the back. Then Nick Kroll stops by to play the most niche-oriented character in his impressive arsenal: Randy Moss’ dog as a kvetching old Jewish man. It’s not the kind of character you’d expect to have legs, but judging from the brothers’ voluminous laughter, we may not have heard the last of his fussy dietary requirements. To close out a packed episode, Jason Nash plays Bryant Gumbel as a hilariously deluded narcissist making an ill-advised transition into observational stand-up comedy for and about the excessively rich.

The Sound Of Young America: Bob Mould
New dad Jesse Thorn is on paternity leave, but his podcast is in the hands of several capable guest hosts. This week, Dave Holmes interviews Bob Mould about his musical career with Hüsker Dü and Sugar as well as his new memoir, See A Little Light. Holmes is an ideal fill-in host; he’s friendly, quick, and curious as he interviews Mould about his early career building buzz for his band, his experience as a rare openly gay alternative rocker, and his interests in professional wrestling and electronic music. In fact, that’s the only quibble with this particular installment: Another 10 minutes or so would have been nice. Then again, maybe it’s always better to leave ’em wanting more.

The Sound Of Young America: Brooke Gladstone, Lee Unkrich, and more
You could argue that this week’s MaxFunCon special podcast is simply an advertisement for Maximum Fun’s annual convention, but at least it makes for good listening. Nerds of the public radio, comedy, and animation variety will all find something to love as Thorn features an interview with On The Media’s Brooke Gladstone, a conversation between John Hodgman and Pixar’s Lee Unkrich, and lots of standup from people like Graham Clark, fan favorite Maria Bamford, and Andy Daly as his meta-comic character Jerry O’Hearn. Also this week: Noz from Cocaine Blunts is back with his rap picks for the month.

Walking The Room #63: Sad Bottom And The Death Cult
Some of the best things about Walking The Room are the weird little in-jokes Greg Behrendt and Dave Anthony repeatedly interrupt each other with no matter the topic of discussion. A potential new one is born when Behrendt describes a person who’s as boring as “a box full of boxes,” and Anthony launches into a defense of boxes full of boxes, which involves something like singing. Also, the delightful term “brosts” (that is, bros who are ghosts) comes up again, and a maniacally squishy-sounding Bill Cosby impersonation interjects into just about all of this week’s segments. The pair’s discussion early on about what it would be like if gays actually promoted homosexuality is one of the most perversely brilliant responses you’ll hear to paranoid anti-gay politics.

Who Charted? #36: How Did This Get Made?
Paul Scheer—host of Earwolf’s terrible-movie podcast How Did This Get Made?—is a welcome addition to any podcast, because he can keep a conversation flowing without any awkward pauses or uncomfortable silences, which is the advantage of having a guest with such a strong improv background. Also, he has that rare ability to be funny without resorting to being negative or mean-spirited. However, before Scheer is introduced, Howard Kremer auditions a handful of songs for co-host Kulap Vilaysack to soundtrack conceiving a child. (It was ultimately decided that any song by The Weekend would result in a “wussy baby.”) During the music charts, Scheer bravely admits to genuinely enjoying a Black Eyed Peas concert. Speaking of bold declarations, Kremer wraps up the music chart portion by declaring Kreayshawn’s “Gucci Gucci” the song of the “summah.” In the movie-chart discussion, Kremer gives an insightful breakdown of Captain America director Joe Johnston’s shortcomings as a filmmaker. Their assessment of the abysmal comedy The Change-Up is essentially shooting fish in a barrel, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. 


The Adam Carolla Show
The week in Ace, in order of descending interest: Insane Clown Posse provides the week’s motivational success story, and a reverent Carolla sits rapt as ICP recount building their DIY empire. The self-described “world’s most hated band” is harder to dislike one-on-one. Haters will snicker at the defense of “Miracles,” but may give grudging points for a discussion of whether critics give art a fair shake when they don’t like the artist. Kevin Pereira, host of G4’s Attack Of The Show, begins setting Ace straight on the cultural importance of geekdom, but the conversation morphs into a discussion of Ron Jeremy’s staying power and a round of Nerdwalking. After an hour of Ace anecdotes about little league and slow drivers, Bowling For Soup’s Erik and Jaret play an acoustic version of “1985” and the theme from the Disney Channel cartoon Phineas & Ferb. Comedian Bill Burr sits in for a rapid-shuffle conversation about Hilary Duff’s teeth, the Jersey Shore cast, shark attacks, and nothing about his guest role on Breaking Bad. Regular Dana Gould is the week’s non-guest, and he helps the crew riff on passing topics including the Planet Of The Apes franchise, rock-star movies, and the British riots.

The Apple Sisters #11: Money
The penny-pinching theme of “Money” was explored just three weeks ago in “Staycation,” though this week’s episode is considerably more bizarre. The guest is fashion expert Margot Honeydew (Alison Becker), a French woman who offers a line of melon-wear—as in shoes, hats, etc. made of melons. The bit doesn’t really come together, though at under 19 minutes, this episode at least ends pretty quickly.

The B.S. Report With Bill Simmons
After a 10-day layoff, Simmons returns with only one entry this week, but squeezes as much as he can out of his two guests: Grantland’s resident baseball expert Jonah Keri and NFL Network commentator Mike Lombardi. The sharp Keri is always a fantastic interview for baseball fans, and he doesn’t shy from giving Simmons grief over his Red Sox bias as they discuss the MLB season—boring or not?—and debate possible playoff expansion proposals. While Lombardi isn’t as sharp as Keri, it’s still exciting to hear about football and listen to him and Simmons break down the latest set of frantic team moves.

Culture Gabfest: “Hail Caesar” Edition
A below-average show finds the Culture Gabfest crew engaging in an insightful (and enthusiastic) endorsement of the new Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, but the other two segments tackle topics so big that the hosts are limited to vague pronouncements and generalities. A survey of the diminished state of book reviewing offers an incomplete picture of the current landscape. (Although Dana Stevens recalls one of the great critical disses of all time, via Dorothy Parker: “This is not a book to be tossed aside lightly. It must be hurled with great force.”) Then Carl Wilson comes on to discuss his fine New York Times magazine piece on the problems of Gen-X nostalgia, but it proves too abstract a topic to wrangle. 

Firewall & Iceberg, #88: Press Tour, Strike Back, The Hour & More
Compared to last week’s ’cast, this week’s show is a far more detailed dispatch from the Television Critics Association press tour. Alan Sepinwall and Dan Fienberg report from panels on Glee, Rescue Me, NBC’s period drama The Playboy Club, FX’s American Horror Story, and others. The punch-drunk critics shake off their haze for breakdowns of Cinemax’s buddy-action-spy series Strike Back, BBC America’s period drama The Hour (featuring The Wire’s Dominic West), and Breaking Bad, their favorite topic of the year. 

How Was Your Week #22: Rave Withdrawal: Steve Agee, Bryan Safi
Julie Klausner returns to her semi-gay roots in this episode. First, she interviews Steve Agee (who isn’t actually gay, but portrayed one half a gay couple on The Sarah Silverman Program) about his favorite episodes of Three’s Company—it’s hard to get kitschier than that. Then she and Bryan Safi, of That’s Gay on Current TV, talk about his horrifying spider bite and the epic time he met Sharon Stone. Does a Real Housewives reunion get discussed? Perhaps.

Nerdist #113: Mike Birbiglia Returns
Mike Birbiglia’s second Nerdist appearance was taped a couple of months back, judging by his stumping for the Sleepwalk With Me album, released in April, and a brief discussion of the Anthony Weiner scandal. (Remember? Those were the days…) Timeliness issues aside, Birbiglia is a solid guest, attuned to the Nerdist vibe without really indulging its penchant for nerdy pop-culture ephemera. Instead, the conversation revolves mostly around comedy and performance, with meatier-than-usual digressions into politics and racism. 

Never Not Funny: #910 Damien Fahey
Having a former host of Total Request Live as a guest might seem a dubious choice for Never Not Funny, but Damien Fahey proves to be a modest, affable guy who “gets it,” to use the parlance of Pardo. After playing around with Pardo’s new character, XM Radio host Stallone In A Bottle, Fahey details his schizophrenic lifestyle as a TRL host, wherein he hosted a countdown show for children during the day, then partied at night with his witty writer friends. Fahey and Pardo bond over concert mishaps and their love of “shit pussy-rock,” and Fahey closes out the episode with a couple of funny anecdotes: one about a crowd chanting “You’re a pussy!” when he opened a live Opie & Anthony show, and another about feeling honored to use Lindsey Buckingham’s bathroom. 

Pop Culture Happy Hour: A Television Omnibus, Including Much That Is Regrettable
With Linda Holmes still off at the Television Critics’ Association summer press tour, Trey Graham hosts a significantly shorter than usual PCHH that covers why CBS’ reality show Same Name is stupid, plus a long-distance TCA interim report from Holmes. Weirdly, the episode’s core segment has Graham soliciting dream endings for Entourage, apparently mostly so he can spin his own elaborate, funny, highly specific fantasy about how the show should wrap up.

RadioLab: Shorts: Damn It, Basal Ganglia  
RadioLab joins a young woman whose research into the functionality of the basal ganglia, the center of our brains that controls movement, ends up hitting far closer to home than she expected when the experiments she performed on mice seemed to replicate themselves in her own body. It’s a shorter than usual story, with a pretty obvious twist ending, but her description of how terrifying it was to lose control of her own movements illuminates how utterly strange it can be to poke around inside the brain and make it do tricks.

Uhh Yeah Dude #283
This week, Seth Romatelli celebrates receiving a $6 residual check from appearing in an episode of the short-lived ’90s series Hyperion Bay, and recalls watching that episode while working a catering gig—the kind of odd reminiscence that only the comedy-guy-podcast medium can make entertaining. Romatelli and UYD co-host Jonathan Larroquette usually do better than this week in terms of laughs, but this episode at least offers a bizarre mix of news and studies about panic attacks, nipples, and fake reviews on travel sites.

WTF With Marc Maron #198: Lucas Molandes
WTF episodes don’t get less intense than Marc Maron’s casual ramble through San Antonio alongside his buddy from the city, Lucas Molandes. The touring twosome have a funny extended riff on “frolf” (that would be “Frisbee golf” to outsiders) and what Molandes refers to as their “conga line of ignorance” concerning the city’s history, but this rambling, digressive chat is strictly for diehards only. 

WTF With Marc Maron #199: Aubrey Plaza 
Marc Maron and guest Aubrey Plaza eventually fall into a relatively natural rhythm, but listeners must first wade through an awful lot of stilted back-and-forth to get to the good stuff. Once they do, the Parks & Recreation star shares some revealing anecdotes, including the stroke she had at age 20, how her role as a comedian in Funny People led to a real-life sideline in stand-up, and a funny story about semi-stalking Fred Armisen while she was an intern on SNL